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ILWU, community rally Jan. 22 in Tacoma

UPDATE (Jan. 23, 2015) — Here is news coverage of Thursday’s community rallies:

KOMO-ILWU-rally► From KOMO News — ‘We just want to work:’ Rallying cry for West Coast port workers — Some of the loudest full-throated cheers didn’t come from longshoremen. They came for a longshorewoman. “I’m a blue collar laborer like the rest of us,” said Meghan Mason, a second-generation worker with the Port of Tacoma. She was a speaker at a labor rally and march hosted by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in downtown. ILWU Local 23 President Dean McGrath said their concerns stem from the Pacific Maritime Association’s handling of work and contract negotiations.

► In today’s News Tribune — Tacoma longshoremen rally amid West Coast port slowdown — Dean McGrath, president of the International Longshore Workers Union Local 23 in Tacoma, said the protest was to inform the community about what’s been happening with the slowdown and to allow the longshoremen to support each other.

ALSO TODAY at The Stand — At ports, ILWU standing up for working people, middle class (by WSLC President Jeff Johnson)

► In today’s Long Beach P-T — Los Angeles, Long Beach longshore workers, community march in solidarity — About 6,000 community members and International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers marched Thursday to support hundreds of Los Angeles and Long Beach dockworkers engaged in contentious contract talks with employers.

► From AP — West Coast seaport talks resuming after hiatus, rallies — Labor strife at seaports along the West Coast prompted thousands of dockworkers to rally against employers they say are trying to exploit a crisis of cargo congestion.


port-of-tacoma-ILWU23-frontTACOMA (Jan. 19, 2015) — In the weeks before Christmas, companies at the Port of Tacoma shut down two of the three shifts that move goods through the waterfront docks, laying off nearly 500 port workers. The shift closures are creating record congestion in one of Washington state’s busiest ports.

Longshore port workers who usually work round the clock to keep Washington moving are now forced to work only one shift per day as containers full of goods from around Washington, ready to be shipped, are stacked six high, waiting. Longshore port workers and their union in Tacoma, ILWU Local 23, have asked that the two shifts be reinstated so that Washington companies and farmers can get their goods moving.

ILWU-rally-Jan22TAKE A STAND! Join the ILWU Community Rally and March starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 22 at Tollefson Plaza, S. 17th and Pacific Ave. in Tacoma. All union members and community supporters are urged to join this rally, scheduled when hundreds of ILWU members would normally be going to work on the shifts that have been closed down. Join ILWU members as they defend the middle class, their union, and a strong economy for all workers. Please wear your work gear — hard hats, safety vests, coveralls.

The corporations conducting the layoff are part of the Pacific Maritime Association, a coalition of more than 90 multinational corporations that operate on the West Coast docks, and the group in contract negotiations with the ILWU.

While the PMA continues to say that workers are the problem, the ILWU Local 23 has information showing that the union asked the PMA to replace 65 workers who retired or advanced and, since 2013, have requested that hundreds of positions be added to handle increased work load at the Port of Tacoma. When the PMA refused to fill these positions, beginning the current congestion, ILWU members from neighboring ports were called in to help fill the overflow of work moving goods at the port.

port-of-tacoma“The PMA has taken actions that increase congestion in order to cut costs, using this opportunity to attack workers’ rights by blaming all congestion on the port workers, said Dean McGrath, President ILWU Local 23. “While the ILWU and port workers are ready to find solutions to the current congestion crisis, the Pacific Maritime Association has chosen to lay off 500 people, and then spend millions of dollars on a smear campaign against those same workers orchestrated by a notorious crisis management firm. The ILWU is ready to get back to work and keep Washington moving 24 hours a day.”

Intermodal port congestion was named as a serious issue during a Joint Work Session held Jan. 14 in Olympia. Congestion from rails, trucks, and at the docks has been a challenge where all the transportation systems converge at the ports. The PMA began outsourcing critical management at the Port of Tacoma, using a third-party business to handle the truck trailers at the docks. This has contributed to congestion and is a key issue in the contract negotiations.

“We want to see truck trailers, the chassis, brought back in-house and managed with the rest of the dock work,” McGrath said. “This will streamline the port, increase efficiency and help with congestion. Our number one concern is safety for workers and for our community, getting congestion cleared up is important to having a safe port.”

Port workers, who have have one of the most dangerous jobs in America, have been working without a contract since July 1, 2014.

“These corporations in the PMA are outsourcing and cutting shifts to save money, to put pressure on the workers, but the longshore workers are serious about safe ports that keep Washington moving. That is why we are still at the table trying to negotiate a fair contract,” McGrath said.

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